Some good news to kick off your Friday: two local startups have been selected as semifinalists in the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge powered by Mozilla.

This global challenge calls on entrepreneurs to submit their solutions to bridging the digital divide and no less than three of the five finalists have ties to South Africa.

Both Tim Human (Afri-Fi: Free Public WiFi) and Dr Carlos Rey-Moreno (Zenzeleni “Do it for ourselves” Networks) are both┬áCapetonians while Steve Song (Freemium Mobile Internet) is a born South African now residing in Canada.

The trio of locals will square off against Bruno Vianna (Free Networks P2P Cooperative) from Brazil and Professor Abhay Karandikar (Gram Marg Solution for Rural Broadband) from India.

You can find out more about each of the finalists and their solutions on the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge website.

All five startups will be judged on the criteria of affordability, accessibility, empathy, technical feasability, scalability, user experience, differentiation, potential for quick deployment and the potential of the team.

The prize pool the teams will be competing for totals $250 000 (~R3.3m) and the overall winner will receive $125 000 (~R1.6m) to develop its idea further.

The rest of the prize pool will be divided up as follows:

  • Runner up – $75 000
  • Most novel solution – $30 000
  • Remaining finalists – $10 000 each

The semifinalists now enter a mentorship programme which will run until 8th March. Thereafter the teams will pitch their solutions to the judges at a Demo Day being held in New York on 9th March.

Members of the public will be able to vote on their favourite solution for a week from 10th March to 16th March and the winners will announced on 29th March at Rightscon Brussels.

Congratulations to all the finalists and we look forward to seeing how their ideas evolve and adapt to better address the digital divide.

[Image – CC BY 2.0 David Stanley]